The summer switched itself off dramatically into frosts, then rain, and now gales.....and the leaves started to fall. As did the bills.
This is the time of year when I keep a bottle of whisky and a comfortable chair by the back door, for emergency aid when opening the daily post, which seems to to consist solely of demands for money which I would rather spend on other things...like whisky and comfortable chairs.
I have recovered from the income tax bill....I will never recover from the bill for paying off the various deficits undertaken by successive French governments - the CSG - which just about doubles the income tax bill....the taxe professionelle taxes me considerably in every sense of the word, but, at least, they all come in the good weather. The taxe fonciere, the taxe d'habitation, the water bill, the electricity bill and the house insurance renewal all arrive in the dead season of the year, when the days grow rapidly shorter.....as does, I feel, my life expectancy. I suppose that in summer I am busy, warm and relatively optimistic, while at this time of year the bills are just one other indication that life feels nasty, brutish and short.
Still, worse is about to befall me. President Sarkozy has decided to alter the way in which local government is funded. At the moment, the greater part of local government revenue comes from the tax on business, the taxe professionelle, and, as part of his reform package, he wishes to lighten the burden on the productive part of the French economy by reducing the taxes to which it is subject. Wonderful, one might think, but there is a downside. How is local government to react?
Faced with the loss of revenue on one hand, and growing responsibilities on the other, local government is looking about itself to find another source of revenue to replace the business tax and has, as always, lighted upon the obvious source of revenue, one which cannot, by its' very nature, be hidden. Property.
It is proposed to undertake a re-evaluation of property with a view to increasing the revenue from the taxe fonciere, the property tax, which already reaches obscene proportions. Last undertaken in the 1970s, I believe, this re-evaluation exercise will no doubt be an opportunity for dubious gradings and inefficient adjudication, which will further depress the property market just as it starts to pick up again.
To sweeten the pill, the tax hike will not be visited upon current proprietors, but will come into force when a property changes hands, so that prospective purchasers, already burdened by the exorbitant costs involved in buying a property, will find themselves facing a potential property tax well above the amount paid by the vendors.
All this begs the question of what local government is to do to fill the 'hungry gap' between the demise of the business tax and the realisation of the new property tax. No one seems to know.
The proposal has further divided the ruling right wing party, the UMP. Sarkozy, for all he is a product of the Paris microcosm, needed the support of the rural right wing vote to be elected, and the rural right wing deputies and senators are deeply opposed to proposals which weaken their power base in local government. Further, these representatives are of the Chiracian persuasion - cattle shows and wine fairs rather than the culture of the capital - and Sarkozy, with his recent history of blunders in respect of the Clearstream case, his culture minister's proclivities and his son's abortive ascent to power, is seen as vulnerable to pressure from the old guard of the UMP.
General Cambronne, when called upon to save the lives of his soldiers of Napoleon's Old Guard after Waterloo, announced - it is said -
'The Guard dies, it does not surrender.'
What he actually said is more in tune with the view currently taken by the old guard of the UMP.
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